Food security

Muna Al-Fuzai

Whether we are facing a virus, pandemic or a war, people will not stop demanding food, and this includes production and export and import operations of grains such as wheat and rice, other consumables or even water. I believe the topic of food security is a priority for all countries in the world facing the threat of COVID-19.

It is a challenge that must be faced and addressed in light of the spread of the coronavirus. No one knows for sure when it will end, especially lockdown measures in countries that will have a negative effect if this crisis prolongs. In April, the UN Security Council met to discuss the implications of the spread of the pandemic on global food security, and the G20 agreed to tackle food price turmoil. The G20 ministers of agriculture and food said the emergency measures in the coronavirus pandemic should not put unnecessary barriers to trade or hinder global food supply chains.

The extraordinary meeting occurred because isolation measures around the world slowed down global food supply chains, which made some farmers unable to deliver their products to consumers, while producing countries restricted major exports, which is dangerous for many importing countries. Stopping exports will undoubtedly lead to a global food crisis, especially since no one knows exactly when this nightmare will end!

Last month, UN agencies warned that uncertainties about the availability of food amid the coronavirus epidemic could lead to export restrictions, which would increase and fluctuate prices, and called for measures to reduce the potential impacts on the food supply chain.

For example, main grain supplies such as wheat are available globally, but some producing countries want to place restrictions on foreign sales to give priority to domestic supply. Although this appears to be a sound measure because of the priority of countries towards their populations, it can result in economic damage to importing countries in the long term.

So it is not surprising that an international report issued by the United Nations confirms that the world is experiencing an acute and unprecedented food crisis. The report revealed that by the end of 2019, more than 130 million people in 55 countries suffered from food insecurity, while more than 70 million children face health problems due to hunger. Also, political conflicts in the world add a new dimension to the increase in hunger cases, especially in situations of displacement.

International organizations have previously warned of the risk of food shortages in the global market due to the turmoil in international trade due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, so the demand not to place many restrictions on exports is important to prevent a food crisis. The global Food Security Index for the year 2019 measures progress of countries to maintain food security. The 2019 Food Security Index put Kuwait in a good position with an overall score of 74.8 percent. The index is based on three basic criteria: Food availability and affordability, as well as quality and safety.

During the past five years, for example, Kuwait was able to provide products in the local market, in addition to the adequacy of stocks of goods for the population and their validity for use, as well as agriculture and local production of food, the diversity of supply and import lines across several countries and sales outlets throughout the country.

But I believe that the food safety that lasted for several years was not exposed to a global virus like the one we are facing today, so caution in dealing with the issue of food security is required at this time, because the pandemic threatens the food security system and supply chains, with production disrupted by international measures to prevent the virus from spreading.

The countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council are facing a number of important challenges, starting with the increase in demand for food, climate change and the scarcity of freshwater resources. Therefore, working towards finding practical solutions for the food security system in Gulf countries is important, and has become essential in light of the spread of the coronavirus, which is likely to turn into a threat to food security if not eliminated as soon as possible.

I believe that it is imperative to work to stabilize the demand for food and protect supply chains while implementing measures to protect food security, accompanied by the state’s tightening of medical procedures to prevent the return of a new wave of the virus, promotion of hygiene measures in the food industry and food safety to reduce the spread of the virus.

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